Keeping Expectations Alive in Uncertain Times

My hubby and I have been binge-watching a great show (yes, I’m embarrassed to admit it, but we binge watch and eat carbs…call me human). The depth of characters, amazing plot development, moral conflicts, the whole lot. Rectify is about a man released from death row and how he, and his family, come back from that.

I know, I know, “sounds pretty heavy, Sarah…no thank you!” I thought the same thing. But man, the writing is excellent (says the psychology grad).

Here’s my favourite line of the whole juicy four seasons:

Expectations are the trickier cousin of hope. Daniel, you hope for something more, and that’s not a bad thing. When was the last time you felt disappointed because you hoped for something? That’s not a bad thing. It’s worth the risk.

I won’t share anything else about Rectify in case you’re watching it or plan to. A show review is not my point anyway. I mention it because those words hit me like a snowball to the face (as I write this, it’s snowing here in Niagara wine country, so trust me, readers in temperate climates, a snowball to the face is not as fun as it sounds).

forboding joy with Sarah McVanelA recurring theme in my coaching conversations in 2020 has been the hesitation to hope for too much at the risk of disappointment, further deflation, and hopelessness. These are smart, talented, brilliant folks. None of us are immune to foreboding joy.

My clients hiring me for speaking are also consistently saying, “we need you to give our folks hope“; that people need practical strategies like recognition to keep morale high in times of disconnection, distraction, and disappointment.

Taking this quote to heart, have you held back on expectations?

Have you been hesitant to:
– set goals for 2021
– hold others accountable
– make plans
– daydream or concrete dream about what you want

Are you hesitant to set expectations for yourself or others because you can’t deal with another disappointment? That your hope feels as fragile as a snowflake? That watching it dissolve in front of you would just be yet another painful reminder of how emotionally precarious this time in history is?

What if we flipped the script?

Expectations and why we need them now with Sarah McVanelWhat if we considered how expectations ground us in important things like:
– what we value
– what we most want and need
– what unites and aligns us
– what is possible
– what we can accomplish
– what helps to clarify what’s important

Maybe it’s worth the risk to feel frustration, disappointment and hopelessness temporarily so we can truly know what we stand for – individually and collectively – in the longterm. This is one of the lessons I’m taking from 2020. Can you relate?

What if hope and disappointment were not opposites?

What if hope is the gateway to clarity, and disappointment was the detour sign along the way to find your way back. How might we use hope to our advantage, our super sleuthing tool, rather than our blinders?

This is how we FLIP failure. This is how we find the meaning behind the pain, frustration, confusion, shock, trials, triumphs, learning, struggle, curiosity, possibility, roadblocks and opportunity that 2020 has brought for us. We can let it go down as the year that defied us or the year that defined us. It’s not too late to write the last chapter of 2020. What will you pen? (Let’s pen it together.)

PS.  Do you like this concept of leaning into failure as a window to wisdom? Here are some more resources I know you’ll find helpful:

“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”

– Mother Teresa

Judy Kucharuk

Director, Marketing and Special Events, Encana Events Centre

"Funny, full of energy and incredibly motivating – all words to use when describing Sarah and her passionate stage presence. We were fortunate to have Sarah join us as a speaker for Spark Women’s Leadership Conferences and her presentations about leveraging greatness hit the core of our objective at SPARK: “A rising tide lifts all boats”. I would not hesitate to recommend Sarah to other organizations that are searching for a well-prepared, well-organized, thoughtful and passionate storyteller."
Shelley VanVeen

Learning & Development Manager, Libro Credit Union

"Sarah brought so much energy and enthusiasm to our International Women’s Day event at Libro! Her message was uplifting, thought-provoking and truly appreciated by our team. Dealing with Sarah was wonderful – she was open, professional and willing to work with us to customize her message to incorporate our culture and connect to our topic and participants. During the session, she was a pro with a powerful message and a fantastic delivery. We had wonderful feedback from all that attended and can’t wait to have Sarah back for another session in the future!"
Sylvia D’Intino

Executive Director, Community Living Hamilton

"THANK YOU so very much for leading the engagement activities today! You’re a constant professional, with an amazing attitude and always seeing the great in everyone. I am grateful for how you have helped us this year to transform our in-person staff recognition events into virtual and on-location events. Our staff feel more inspired, appreciated and motivated after they hear you speak, and I know our amazing in-house team here looks forward to designing engaging appreciation events with your support."
Melissa Chaulk

Manager of Professional Development

Canadian Dental Hygienists Association

"We work hard at CDHA to give our members a wonderful conference experience, so we were thrilled to have received resoundingly positive feedback on Sarah's opening plenary keynote. It was the highest attended of the entire conference for both dates!"
Jamie Campbell

Director, The Center for People in Organizational Development, Sheridan College

"Smart, challenging, innovative, committed, dependable, and reliable, I highly recommend her for all your recognition needs. I have brought Sarah into my last two organizations to help build a culture of recognition and celebration. The focus on appreciation is more important now than ever."

Some of the Great Organizations We Serve